COM­MAN­DER SPAMMED

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexan­der, com­man­der of the new U.S. Cy­ber Com­mand, which would wage com­puter war­fare in a fu­ture con­flict, said In­ter­net spam emails are a ma­jor prob­lem and even his email was vic­tim­ized.

Dur­ing a speech to a con­fer­ence hosted by the As­so­ci­a­tion of the Old Crows, an elec­tronic war­fare group, Gen. Alexan­der said that “my per­sona has been used out there.”

“So if you’re in a com­pany and you get some­thing from me that says, ‘Hey you need to pro­tect your­self, open this link.’ Don’t do it. I’m not send­ing you stuff di­rectly. Trust me.”

The four-star gen­eral said the use of hi­jacked email is one of sev­eral meth­ods used by hack­ers to gain ac­cess to com­put­ers. False emails are sent out that ap­pear to be from a trusted sender, urg­ing the re­ceiver to click on a link.

The link is ac­tu­ally a hack­er­con­trolled com­puter that loads ma­li­cious soft­ware on a com­puter or mo­bile de­vice.

In­ter­net and wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices and net­works are ex­pand­ing rapidly, Gen. Alexan­der said, cre­at­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties for cy­ber­crime, es­pi­onage and data theft.

“We live in in­ter­est­ing times, there’s no doubt,” Gen. Alexan­der said. “The rate of change in this area is ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

The gen­eral said that 10 years ago, the num­ber of In­ter­net users was 200 mil­lion. To­day the num­ber of online users is 2 bil­lion.

Email mes­sages in 2010 to­taled 107 tril­lion, or about 294 bil­lion a day, and 89 per­cent were spam mes­sages, Gen. Alexan­der said .

Twit­ter and Face­book also are grow­ing rapidly, he said, not­ing that in March, the tsunami in Ja­pan led to 573,000 peo­ple open­ing new Twit­ter ac­counts on a sin­gle day, March 12.

Face­book boasts 750 mil­lion ac­tive and in­ac­tive ac­counts, mak­ing it the third-largest na­tion of “ne­ti­zens” in the world, he said.

Ma­li­cious soft­ware con­tin­ues to pro­lif­er­ate, too. One se­cu­rity com­pany finds on av­er­age more than 55,000 new pieces of mal­ware per day. with ob­jec­tive analy­ses and as­sess­ments free of pol­icy de­signs.

So cur­rent and former in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials were sur­prised by a re­cent news re­port re­veal­ing that a group of agency an­a­lysts cel­e­brated a pol­icy vic­tory of sorts sev­eral years ago by is­su­ing a spe­cial coin af­ter they had pre­vented Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney from or­der­ing an at­tack on Syria’s se­cret desert nu­clear fa­cil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to jour­nal­ist Bob Wood­ward, the an­a­lysts worked to dis­suade Mr. Bush from at­tack­ing the al Kibar re­ac­tor fa­cil­ity, which Is­raeli jets even­tu­ally de­stroyed, claim­ing there was “low con­fi­dence” that it was for nu­clear arms.

“At the CIA af­ter­ward, the group of spe­cial­ists who had worked for months on the Syr­ian re­ac­tor is­sue were pleased they had suc­ceeded in avoid­ing the over­reach­ing so ev­i­dent in the Iraq WMD case,” Mr. Wood­ward wrote in The Washington Post.

“So they is­sued a very lim­it­ed­cir­cu­la­tion me­mo­rial coin. One side showed a map of Syria with a star at the site of the former re­ac­tor.

“On the other side the coin said, ‘No core/No war.’ “

The CIA and a spokes­men for the di­rec­tor of national in­tel­li­gence had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

John Bolton, former am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions and the State Depart­ment’s key arm­spro­lif­er­a­tion pol­i­cy­maker in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he is con­cerned about the re­ported CIA politi­ciza­tion.

“Thank good­ness the Is­raelis didn’t lis­ten to them,” Mr. Bolton said.

“This is a real breach of the ‘wall of sep­a­ra­tion’ be­tween in­tel­li­gence and pol­icy.”

A former se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said he was as­ton­ished that CIA an­a­lysts would take such a bla­tant pol­icy po­si­tion.

“Whose side are these guys on?” the former of­fi­cial asked.

A sec­ond former of­fi­cial said that un­til the Wood­ward re­port, it was thought the State Depart­ment and White House National Se­cu­rity Coun­cil were sup­press­ing in­tel­li­gence on the Syr­i­aNorth Korean re­ac­tor fa­cil­ity to avoid up­set­ting the six-na­tion nu­clear talks on Pyongyang’s nu­clear pro­gram.

CIA spokes­woman Marie Harf said the coin was given to men and women from five in­tel­li­gence agen­cies who worked on lo­cat­ing the Syr­ian nu­clear re­ac­tor and mon­i­tor­ing it be­fore and af­ter its de­struc­tion.

The coin also was given to those who kept “U.S. pol­i­cy­mak­ers in­formed of rapidly chang­ing de­vel­op­ments.”

“The com­mem­o­ra­tive medal­lion was pro­vided in July 2008 by the agency to for­mally rec­og­nize their skill, com­mit­ment, and con­tri­bu­tion to Amer­ica’s se­cu­rity,” she told In­side the Ring.

“To try to read any­thing more into it is wrong and un­fair, both to these in­tel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als and to the pol­icy cus­tomers they served.”

Bill Gertz can be reached at in­sid­e­ther ing@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

John R. Bolton.

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